Summer Sounds: Protecting Your Ears During the Summer

Activ­i­ties that put you at risk for hear­ing loss

Expo­sure to var­i­ous sounds can affect your hear­ing and cause dam­age, includ­ing tem­po­rary or per­ma­nent hear­ing loss, depend­ing on how loud the noise is and the length of time you are exposed to it. Noise-relat­ed hear­ing loss is com­mon, affect­ing near­ly 15 per­cent of adults in the Unit­ed States (U.S.). Hear­ing dam­age from loud nois­es accu­mu­lates over time and sub­tle changes in your hear­ing may not always be noticed. It is impor­tant to be aware of the vol­ume of sounds you are exposed to and take pre­cau­tions to pre­serve your hear­ing. Vol­ume, which is mea­sured in deci­bels (dB), is con­sid­ered safe in the work­place when it is below 85 dB for an eight hour shift, how­ev­er, the Nation­al Insti­tute for Occu­pa­tion­al Safe­ty and Health rec­om­mends lim­it­ing your expo­sure to nois­es loud­er than 70 dB to be safe. If your job expos­es you to sounds that exceed the rec­om­mend­ed lim­it, an audi­ol­o­gist can fit you for cus­tom earplugs to pro­tect your hear­ing. Out­side of the work­place, cer­tain recre­ation­al activ­i­ties are noto­ri­ous for their loud sounds and can put you at a high­er risk for hear­ing loss as well. No mat­ter where you may be exposed to loud nois­es, it is impor­tant to take pre­cau­tions to pro­tect your hearing.

Infants and small chil­dren are more sen­si­tive to loud nois­es because their ear canal is still devel­op­ing and is short­er than an adult. To pro­tect your whole fam­i­ly’s hear­ing, you should take pre­ven­tive mea­sures when par­tic­i­pat­ing in the fol­low­ing activities:

Watch­ing Fireworks

Most fire­works pro­duce sounds as loud as 125 dB, mak­ing them unsafe for babies and tod­dlers. If you attend a fire­works dis­play with small chil­dren, we rec­om­mend keep­ing their ears cov­ered and view­ing them from a dis­tance of at least 50 – 60 meters. Small chil­dren can use foam-filled ear cups that are avail­able over-the-counter. For adults and old­er chil­dren, earplugs work well.


Depend­ing on the cur­va­ture of their ear canal, or if there is wax buildup, water may accu­mu­late in the mid­dle ear dur­ing water-based activ­i­ties like swim­ming. Typ­i­cal­ly the water is able to work its way out of the ear nat­u­ral­ly, but, in some cas­es, the flu­id becomes trapped and can cause an out­er ear infec­tion known as swim­mer’s ear”. Swim­mer’s ear can lead to inflam­ma­tion and/​or infec­tion in the lin­ing of the ear canal that can block the ear canal and cause pain, ring­ing in the ears and tem­po­rary hear­ing loss. Wear­ing earplugs when­ev­er you are in the water can help pre­vent infec­tions and keep water out of your ears. If your child expe­ri­ences pain and hear­ing loss, you should have their ears checked right away by their pedi­a­tri­cian, oto­laryn­gol­o­gist (ENT) or an imme­di­ate care physician.

Base­ball Games & Sport­ing Events

From cheer­ing crowds to music blar­ing from the speak­ers, watch­ing a base­ball game or sport­ing event can be hard on your ears. In fact, a 2015 study by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan found aver­age noise lev­els at a base­ball game were 94 dB, even reach­ing as high as 114 dB. Pro­longed expo­sure to noise of this lev­el, even at the aver­age of 94 dB, for longer than 30 min­utes, can lead to hear­ing loss. Before head­ing to a sport­ing event, be sure to pack earplugs for the whole family.


Parades fea­ture a vari­ety of sounds, from march­ing bands and sirens to floats and engine noise that may be con­sid­ered safe for adults, but can be harm­ful for infants and small chil­dren. To be on the safe side, keep small children’s ears cov­ered with foam-filled ear cups.

Out­door Concerts

Out­door con­certs and music fes­ti­vals are a great way to unwind, but are often loud­er than indoor con­certs. When con­certs are held indoors, the sound can be absorbed and bet­ter con­tained. Sounds at an out­door venue are wide­ly dis­persed, requir­ing musi­cians to turn up the vol­ume. The aver­age con­cert vol­ume often exceeds 100 dB, well above the 85 dB rec­om­men­da­tion. You can pro­tect your hear­ing by opt­ing for lawn seats, sit­ting away from speak­ers and using dis­pos­able earplugs.

Car Rac­ing

Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans enjoy watch­ing car races each year. From NASCAR to Indy races and stock cars, these events pro­duce sounds between 90 – 115 dB and can reach as high as 130 dB. Loud noise from the crowds, engines and venue speak­ers can be dan­ger­ous for both adults and chil­dren. To keep every­one safe, pack earplugs for the whole family.

Motor­cy­cles and convertibles

Tak­ing a ride on a motor­cy­cle or in a con­vert­ible can expose you to loud noise and pres­sure from the wind, espe­cial­ly at accel­er­at­ed speeds. If you are trav­el­ing at a speed of 65 miles-per-hour, noise gen­er­at­ed by the wind can be as high as 103 dB. While it is not safe to wear earplugs while oper­at­ing a vehi­cle, cus­tom hear-through earplugs that allow you to hear traf­fic nois­es while block­ing the wind can help. Laws per­mit­ting these earplugs may vary by state, so make sure to check each state’s pol­i­cy before head­ing on a cross-coun­try road trip!


Approx­i­mate­ly 40 mil­lion peo­ple par­tic­i­pate in tar­get shoot­ing each year in the U.S. Most gun­shots, even from small­er cal­iber firearms, pro­duce sounds that range from 120 – 140 dB, which can cause imme­di­ate, seri­ous dam­age to your hear­ing. It is crit­i­cal that you use earplugs — we rec­om­mend dou­bling-up on ear pro­tec­tion and wear­ing ear­muffs as well, when­ev­er you use a firearm.

Yard work

Tools used for yard main­te­nance pro­duce sounds aver­ag­ing between 80 – 105 dB. In gen­er­al, elec­tric-pow­ered tools are qui­eter than gas-pow­ered options. In addi­tion to wear­ing earplugs while per­form­ing yard work like mow­ing grass, oper­at­ing leaf blow­ers or trim­ming hedges, keep­ing up with equip­ment main­te­nance and ensur­ing your tools are func­tion­ing prop­er­ly can also help keep noise lev­els low.

Plan­ning ahead and pack­ing ear pro­tec­tion can sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce your risk of noise-relat­ed hear­ing loss. As a gen­er­al rule of thumb, if you think noise may be too loud, it prob­a­bly is. In addi­tion to tak­ing pre­ven­tive mea­sures to pro­tect your ears, get­ting your hear­ing checked peri­od­i­cal­ly by an audi­ol­o­gist can help iden­ti­fy changes to your hear­ing over time, and allows you to take action if necessary.

Hear­ing loss is com­mon, affect­ing approx­i­mate­ly one in four adults by the age of 65. We rec­om­mend get­ting a base­line audio­gram per­formed by the age of 60 if you are not expe­ri­enc­ing any hear­ing-relat­ed symp­toms. If you have hear­ing-relat­ed con­cerns includ­ing ring­ing in the ears, a fam­i­ly his­to­ry of hear­ing loss or are fre­quent­ly exposed to loud nois­es at work or dur­ing recre­ation­al hob­bies, we rec­om­mend start­ing your screen­ings ear­li­er. If you’re exposed to sounds that exceed 85 dB for an eight hour shift at work, cus­tom ear plugs may be rec­om­mend­ed to pro­tect your hearing.

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